Soils of Contrasting pH Affect the Decomposition of Buried Mammalian (Ovis aries) Skeletal Muscle Tissue

T.C.F. Haslam, Mark Tibbett

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    31 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Little is known about the effect of edaphic conditions on the decomposition of buried mammalian tissues. To address this, we set up a replicated incubation study with three fresh soils of contrasting pH: a Podsol (acidic), a Cambisol (neutral), and a Rendzina (alkaline), in which skeletal muscle tissue (SMT) of known mass was allowed to decompose. Our results clearly demonstrated that soil type had a considerable effect on the decomposition of SMT buried in soil. Differences in the rate of decomposition were up to three times greater in the Podsol compared with the Rendzina. The rate of microbial respiration was correlated to the rate of soft tissue loss, which suggests that the decomposition of SMT is dependent on the microbial community present in the soil. Decompositional by-products caused the pH of the immediate soil environment to change, becoming more alkaline at first, before acidifying. Our results demonstrate the need for greater consideration of soil type in future taphonomic studies.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)900-904
    JournalJournal of Forensic Sciences
    Volume54
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2009

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